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There are a lot of naysayers when it comes to the appointment of Meg Whitman as the new chief executive of the beleaguered technology giant, Hewlett-Packard (s HPQ). Scott McNealy, the co-founder and ex-CEO of Sun Microsystems, isn’t one of them. He believes that Whitman would be a good CEO for HP.
“I am a big fan of Meg Whitman and she surrounds herself with good people,” said McNealy in a phone interview. He argued that she will bring much-needed stability. “I am bullish on Meg, but not bullish on how HP got there.” HP has come under extreme criticism and much of it has been directed at its board of directors, who appointed Leo Apotheker as the CEO of HP, 11 months ago. He decided to get rid of HP’s PC business and at the same time spent a majority of HP’s cash on the poorly received acquisition of Autonomy.
“She understands tech, even though she didn’t come from the computer industry. Heck, even Lou Gerstner (ex-CEO of IBM) didn’t come from the computer business,” McNealy said. The past year notwithstanding, McNealy points out that with the right leadership and efforts companies can make a comeback, pointing to Oracle (s ORCL) and Apple (s AAPL), two companies that were looking into an abyss at some point in their life. McNealy argued that HP has a great management team and its printer/ink business is a cash cow that can be very helpful in any comeback.
When I brought up the fact that during the last couple of years at eBay, Whitman came under heavy criticism for her decisions and management style, Scott pointed out that being a CEO is a tough job and often things and people go through cycles. “Even Tiger Woods goes through a slump,” he said. McNealy says that many of Whitman’s decisions including appointment of CEO John Donahue is part of the reason why eBay has weathered the storm and is back on track.